December 20, 2013

Hockey East Journal: Midseason awards for Gaudreau, Gendron

By Andrew Merritt

With 13 goals and 15 assists in 16 games, Boston College's Johnny Gaudreau is the Hockey Journal's Hockey East midseason Player of the Year. (Dave Arnold/New England Hockey Journal)

The Christmas break marks the unofficial halfway point of the season, and while we’re tempted to offer up the Twelve Days of Hockey East-mas (you would have loved what we did with “five golden rings,”) instead it’s a fine time to dish out a few entirely unofficial awards. There are no trophies or rubber chicken dinners for these awards, but feel free to print out and frame this page if you like, and we’ll see you on the flip side.

Player of the Year: Johnny Gaudreau (Boston College) – C’mon, you didn’t think it’d be anyone else, did you? The league scoring leader with 13 goals and 15 assists at the turn, Gaudreau is averaging 1.75 points per game, on pace to finish the regular season with 50. Gaudreau has been held scoreless in exactly one game all year, and has seven multi-point games already. He’s also making his teammates better – linemate Bill Arnold (Needham, Mass.) leads the league in assists, thanks in no small part to Gaudreau’s masterful finishing ability.

Team of the Year: Providence – The Friars were a good team last season. This season, they’re looking more like a great one. With all-world goaltender Jon Gillies in net and an improved offensive corps, Providence is matching fellow first-place team Boston College step-for-step, and with a strong second half could make a run at its first Hockey East title since 1996.

Coach of the Year: Red Gendron (Maine) – A former assistant at national champion Yale (and UMass before that), Gendron has swiftly turned around the Black Bears’ fortunes. At this time last year, Maine was dead last with just one Hockey East win, and only two victories overall. A year later, the Black Bears are in position to earn an opening round bye and host a quarterfinal series in the Hockey East playoffs, and Gendron has done it with largely the same roster as last year’s.

Biggest Surprise: Northeastern – The Huskies missed the playoffs last year, but just like Maine, they’re in the hunt to finish in the top four right now – in fact, they’re tied with the Black Bears heading into the break. One of the biggest reasons is the offense – Northeastern had the third-worst attack in the league last year, but this season, the Huskies are fourth-best in the league with a 3.35 goal-per-game scoring rate. But they’ve also gotten some splendid goaltending from junior Clay Witt, who’s second in the league in save percentage with a .945.

Biggest Disappointment: Notre Dame – The Irish came into Hockey East as a defending champion, after winning the last CCHA title before that league disbanded last season. Yet even as national voters have given them the benefit of the doubt and kept them in the Top 15, the Irish have struggled to gain a foothold in their new league. Although Notre Dame has gone 10-7-1 overall, its 3-4-1 Hockey East record has the newcomers sitting in eighth at the break, with an offense that has mustered an average of three goals per game, sixth in the league.  

Best Moment of the Year: Jerry York Night – Though celebration of his own achievements might be one of Boston College coach Jerry York’s least favorite things, the Watertown, Mass., native was feted with a banner and brief but poignant pregame ceremony on Oct. 18 to honor his becoming the winningest coach in college hockey. He’d actually captured that title last season, but snowstorms and nagging health issues kept York from being recognized until the start of this season. And the celebration didn’t stop when the lights came back up at Conte Forum – York’s Eagles then went out and hammered Wisconsin, 9-2.

Player of the Week

Steve Mastalerz, jr. G, UMass

Mastalerz makes another appearance in this space after turning aside all but two of the 60 Colgate shots he faced in a pair of road wins for the Minutemen. That included a 25-save shutout on Saturday, Dec. 14. Mastalerz has made the third most saves (447) of any Hockey East goaltender this season, having faced more shots than any other goalie in the league.

Games of the Week

Bowling Green vs. Boston College, Friday, Dec. 27

After this weekend, all that’s left for 2013 are holiday tournaments for Hockey East teams. This game, at the Three Rivers Classic in Pittsburgh, features BC coach Jerry York going up against one of his former employers in Bowling Green, where he won the 1984 national championship.

Hockey East power rankings

  1. Providence (11-2-3, 6-2-1 HEA) – It took the Friars 15 games to reach 11 wins, the fastest they’ve done it since 1997-98.
  2. Boston College (10-4-2, 6-1-1 HEA) – The Eagles’ next three games all come in major league facilities – first, Dec. 27 and 28 at the Three Rivers Classic at Pittsburgh’s CONSOL Energy Center, and then Jan. 4 against Notre Dame at Fenway Park.
  3. UMass-Lowell (11-5-0, 4-2-0 HEA) – The 11 wins the River Hawks have compiled nearly matches the best first halves in program history. The 1986-87 and 2001-02 teams each had 12. Remarkably, the squad that went on to win the Hockey East title had just six win at the Christmas break.
  4. Northeastern (10-5-2, 4-4-1 HEA) – The Northeastern freshmen have combined for 65 points, which puts them third among the nation’s freshman classes in points. Only BC (68) and Minnesota (66) have more. The NU rookies’ combined 46 assists are also the most of any freshman class in the country.
  5. New Hampshire (9-9-1, 5-5-0 HEA) – The Wildcats are seventh in the league in goals scored with 27, and are just 6-for-36 on the power play, a .167 success rate. Meanwhile, they’re also averaging the fourth-fewest shots per game (32.56) in the league.
  6. Vermont (8-6-1, 4-5-0 HEA)Mario Puskarich continued his red-hot freshman season last weekend, picking up two assists and a plus-2 rating in UVM’s 5-1 win over St. Lawrence. He leads the UVM freshmen with six points, which has him 10th among the league’s rookies.
  7. Maine (9-6-1, 4-2-1 HEA) – Maine’s 7-1 win over American International on Dec. 13 was the third time the Black Bears have scored at least seven goals in a game this year. Last year, they never scored seven, with a 6-4 win over Cornell as the biggest outburst of that season. 
  8. Notre Dame (10-7-1, 3-4-1 HEA) – The Irish have the longest break of any Hockey East team. They played their last game at UMass on Dec.  7 (a 3-2 loss), and won’t take the ice again until they play BC at Fenway Park on Jan. 4.
  9. Boston University (7-8-2, 2-4-1 HEA) – They probably didn’t take enough advantage of it, but the Terriers had more home games (11) in the first half than they have since 2008-09, when they won the national title. They also played 11 at home before the break in 1984-85, coach David Quinn’s rookie year as a player.
  10. UMass (6-12-2, 2-7-2 HEA) – The Minutemen’s current three-game road winning streak is the first of its kind since the UMass program was resurrected in 1993.
  11. Merrimack (4-9-2, 1-5-2 HEA) – Merrimack’s win-and-tie weekend against BU Dec. 6-7 gave the Warriors the edge in the season series with the Terriers for the first time in three years.

Twitter: @A_Merritt